15 Apr 2020

Covid-19 lockdown: Remote learning begins for New Zealand students

6:21 pm on 15 April 2020

Kitchen tables, living rooms and bedrooms were converted into classrooms today as 800,000 children went back to school without leaving their homes.

Oskar Graham-Smith connects up with his class from Rawhiti School in Christchurch this morning for learning at home during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Oskar Graham-Smith connects up with his class from Rawhiti School in Christchurch this morning for learning at home during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Photo / Rachel Graham

Teachers and pupils had just two weeks of school holidays to prepare for the mass switch to remote lockdown-learning today and those who spoke to RNZ said it had gone well.

Principals said students were generally delighted to see their teachers and one another online though some were not engaging with the work.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

One reported that a child had not bothered getting out of bed for school today, while another was so busy with their school work they had not found time to change out of their pyjamas.

Christchurch 10-year-old Zoe Rhodes said she was pleased to see some of her classmates during a videoconference with her teacher.

"Today was our first Zoom meeting. We didn't have our whole class in there, we only had a couple of our kids, but it was nice to see them because I hadn't seen them in a long time."

Zoe's mother, Gabrielle Still, said the prospect of supervising online schooling for three children was "a bit overwhelming" but it had gone well.

In Hawke's Bay, Sara Feather said her two primary school-aged children, Patrick, 9, and Amelie, 7, had enjoyed the activities their teachers set.

"Amelie's teacher has sent us a challenge to pick up leaves outside and measure them and make a crown, and Patrick's teacher has asked him to design a book cover," she said.

"They're great ideas and it's all achievable from your back garden."

Kellie Englefield, the team leader for Year 5-6 teachers at Somerfield School in Christchurch, said the school had been well prepared to start online learning this week.

"We're just realistic about what the children can and can't do at home and obviously the parents aren't trained teachers," she said.

The government estimates about 140,000 school-aged children do not have access to the internet.

That's a problem for Mangere College where Head of English Lynn Keating said most of the 700 students did not have a computer they could work on at home.

She said the school gave its spare computers to about 100 students before the lockdown began and it hoped the government would provide computers for the remainder.

She said teachers worked online with some students today and over the phone with most.

"It is a challenge," she said.

"We're connecting with our students over Google classroom, via email, those who are actually connected, and by telephone, so actually calling them and setting them little tasks."

One of the students, Ruth Wilson, 13, said she enjoyed her first day of remote schooling, however, without a computer it was limited to a phone call from her teacher to check her progress.

"The work keeps me entertained when I'm at home," she said

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said schools might reopen on 29 April, but if they did it would only be for some students.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

  • Covid-19: Māori education providers tackle students' internet connectivity
  • Distance learning begins for teachers and pupils
  • Secondary school principal wants NCEA level 1 suspended for 2020
  • Covid-19: Ministry of Education reveals support plans for distance learning